Do You Need a Dental Implant?
We know dental terminology can get confusing at times. If you’ve been diagnosed with the need of a dental implant but have no idea what one is, this week’s blog focuses solely on just that.
What is a Dental Implant?
A dental implant is a device used as a root to support restorations, typically made of titanium, resembling a tooth or group of teeth that are missing.
This may sound like a new, high-tech method of tooth replacement, but dental implants have actually been a form of dental care since the time of the ancient Egyptians and the Mayans. These two advanced civilizations used to gather smooth river rocks or shells, carve then down to the rough size and shape of a tooth, then strategically insert one end into the jaw bone of the person missing a tooth. Thankfully, we have fantastic technology now to avoid such crude procedures!
Why Would I Need a Dental Implant?
There are a number of reasons you may need a dental implant. The two most common are:
Structural reasons: large gaps between teeth and in your jaw (gaps from where a tooth used to be) can eventually lead to structural bone loss in the jaw and to your teeth shifting or tilting, and an implant will insure the stability of your jaw and tooth alignment.
- Aesthetic reasons: the missing tooth is a front tooth and your dentist wants to make sure you keep your smile nice and pretty.
Will My Insurance Cover My Dental Implant?
This all depends on your personal insurance policy you signed up for. There are many insurance policies that cover some portion of the implant and crown procedure, anywhere from 20%-60%, but to find out your exact coverage it’s in your best interest to contact your insurance company and have them break down your coverage over the phone (or you can ask for a breakdown mailed to you). If you require further assistance, you can always bring that information you received from the insurance to your dental office. They will be glad to go over the breakdown of benefits given to you. Here’s a list of what insurances we accept here at Affiliated Dentists. And here’s more details about PPO insurance specifically.
What Are the Steps Involved in Dental Implant Placement?
As with any procedure, there are many different steps. As dental implants replace extracted teeth or teeth missing, the process can change per patient. For this blog post, let’s use the example of a tooth that was injured due to an object such as a baseball impacting the face.
The very first step is to call and make an appointment to see your dentist. At this appointment an x-ray called a pariapical x-ray, which shows the entire tooth – cusps to root tip – to determine the extent of the damage. If the tooth is beyond saving, you will be given a referral to an oral surgeon’s office for an extraction and placement of a dental implant.
The oral surgeon will extract your unrestorable tooth at their office. Sometimes a bone graft is needed if the x-ray taken in step one shows there is not enough bone to securely hold the future dental implant. Most of the time, however, you will be told to return to the oral surgeon’s office a few weeks later after the extraction site has had time to heal.
Once the extraction site has healed properly, you go back to the oral surgeon’s a second time. At this visit the oral surgeon will numb the area then use a precision drill with a regulated speed to create the correct size hole in the jawbone. After the hole is drilled, a dental implant screw is inserted using specialized tools that will help the dental implant anchor to your bone. Only a very small portion of the screw stays above the gum line. This implant head is where the eventual crown will be cemented to. While you’re healing, however, a dental implant cap – a.k.a. a “healing cap” – is put over the implant. The most common healing time is about three months.
After your recommended healing process you return to the oral surgeon’s one last time where they will check the implant site to ensure the site is ready for the next step. Once your oral surgeon lets your dentist know that your implant site is ready for the final process you return to Affiliated Dentists for the final steps.
Your next appointment is at Affiliated Dentists. This is typically a shorter appointment at which your healing cap is removed and an abutment is snapped into the cap’s place. An abutment is used as a connecting element for the crown. Once the abutment is fitted on the head of the dental implant, your dentist will take an impression of the entire area. When this impression is removed, the abutment is removed along with it. From there the dentist sends the mold with the abutment in place out to a lab, where a dental crown is made using the surrounding teeth and abutment for proper sizing and shaping.
It takes two weeks for the dental lab to hand make the dental implant crown. At your crown cement appointment with Affiliated Dentists your dentist will make sure the look, feel and fit of the permanent crown is perfect before cementing it into place.
What Are the Advantages of a Dental Implant?
There are many advantages to opting for a dental implant.
- Improved Appearance: Dental implants look and feel like a real tooth, and because they are meant to fuse with bone, they become permanent.
- Improved Speech: Dentures can slip and move around in your mouth, causing you to mumble and slur your words. Dental implants allow you to speak naturally.
- Improved Self-Esteem: Dental implants look just like your real teeth and they give you your smile back.
- Easier Eating: Dentures slip around it make it difficult to chew. Dental implants function just like natural teeth.
Now that you’ve learned all about the reason your dentist recommended a dental implant and how they work, give our office a call to get the process started!